Your Mom used to be so nice

MomandkayhatsMy Mom has a new tempo to her days. Her Assisted Living community recently added a program for residents with cognitive issues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Instead of arriving to find my Mom sleeping in her room, now she is out in the community when I arrive — even when it’s outside of the program hours.

The daily activity has given my Mom more energy and it’s nice to see her engaged with the others in her community. Yesterday I arrive before lunch and join in to paint with my Mom before we walk down to the lunchroom. When we arrive she suggests we go sit with a woman who is not in her activity group so we join her.

I introduce myself and she says “Yes Kay, I know you, You got into a little trouble with my daughter once.” I recognize her instantly and ask how her daughter is doing. The one unique aspect to this community is that many of the residents were classmates of my Dad’s at West Point or were friends made during an assignment over my Dad’s long military career.

When I was 16 (34 years ago), at a sleep over at a mutual friends house, we snuck out to go swimming in the pool on base. We were caught before we got in by the MPs (Military Police) and each of our father’s was called at 2 a.m. to come pick us up at the police station. It was determined that I was the ring leader in the ploy (which was probably true) and I didn’t see much of either girl after that incident. I do remember that the MPs tried to infer that we had been drinking, which was not true. I remember begging my parents to take me to the hospital for a blood test. I accepted my punishment, but didn’t want to be punished for a crime I didn’t commit.

I then learn how after this incident, my Mom and my now estranged-friends Mom would play bridge together. Apparently my Mom hosted social bridge at our house when I was in high school and then went off to college. After sharing this with me, she tells me “Your Mom used to be so nice.” My Mom is sitting at the table with us and it surprises me that she says this so freely in front on my Mom. I assume she doesn’t realize that my Mom’s feelings can still be hurt. She goes on to comment that “she’s just not here anymore.” I want to tell her that I still get glimpses of the woman who raised me and I wonder how soon the day will come when I can no longer find her.

I witness on a daily basis how little people know about dementia or how to interact with someone with cognitive impairment. It took some time for my siblings and myself to adapt. I hope that I can help others learn that the conceptual id Sigmund Freud identified is still intact and as I have witnessed, even someone with moderate dementia recognizes the slight. My Mom starts to turn into the lion after our lunch mate makes these comments. When my Mom is threatened or confused, she becomes very combative and I haven’t seen her this way in several weeks. I quickly find a way to excuse ourselves and get back to painting to I can spend the rest of my visit with the lamb. Escaped.  

5 thoughts on “Your Mom used to be so nice

  1. Kay, I’m sorry that my mom was unkind yesterday during your lunch. Please know that she too is suffering from cognitive impairment and it influences everything that she says and does. We lost my dad earlier this year, and, at the exact same time we (my siblings and I) had to make the decision to move my mom from independent into assisted living. She is struggling with the loss of her husband, her independence and herself. She has great difficulty finding words to convey what she’s thinking. She frequently slips back into German, her native language. Often, the words she finds come out terse and hurtful when that is not her intent. Her inability to communicate well embarrasses her, so much so that she doesn’t often leave her apartment. She is unable to recognize the changes in her personality and, in a strange way, I think that heightens her awareness of the changes in others. She has a history with your mom, more than with any of the other residents in AL, so their paths cross often. She speaks fondly of your mom but I think that she is frightened by the differences that she sees in her. She is afraid of becoming different too, not realizing that she already is changed.

    I’m glad that the new program is working well for your mom. I see her out almost every time that I visit and I always stop to say hello. I come with my dog and your mom usually has something funny to say about her.

    I find your blog posts immensely helpful in traversing the mine filled landscape with my parents, now just my mom. You have given me great insight into what is happening now and what I can expect down the road.


    1. Hey! She asked when I was coming back so we could connect. She shared a lot with me and we had a nice lunch until the end. I tend to focus on the “lesson” and leave out details. I curious how often they sit together. My mom said she sits with your mom often ( but I can’t believe was she recalls). They started to bicker to the point it was a little humorous. I’m sorry for all you are going through. I know how hard it is. It wasn’t the first time someone will talk about my mom to me like she isn’t there … It’s a little surreal. I understand it all and know there are many stories about parents I don’t know that would make me cry. I’m sorry to share the story with you this way. I figure by telling it, at least one person may learn from the experience. I have a general issue with the lack of discussion about dementia at the community – they aren’t out of the ordinary unfortunately.

      We should plan to visit the same day … I’d love to catch up.

  2. Thank you for writing about this issue. As a Person With Dementia myself (diagnosed 54yo) I REALLY hate the phrase … (pardon me a moment as I go back into your article to find it — one of the many reasons why I prefer text over audio communications) … “just not here anymore”. I think I need to blog about the fact that NONE of us are the same person we were five years ago or ten years ago but this sort of thing is not spoken of persons without dementia. I am the same person, even tho I have a dementia diagnosis. Right up until their deaths my grandmothers were the same persons as before, but you had to look very closely to see. In fact, I think they were even more of the same person — peeled down to the core essence of their being. What will my core essence be? I hope it is Truthful Loving Kindness. Thanks for writing 😀

    1. Thanks for your note. I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis and wish you well on your journey. There are some behaviors of my mom that I don’t believe are her peeled back self. She was very mean for a stretch. I know there are others that are physically abusive or now curse when they never did before. I was told early on that each dementia is different as is how it presents in different people. My mom never recognized her diagnosis or accepted it and I think self-realization has you head and shoulders above most. I look forward to hearing more!

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